Cycling is a great way to stay fit, save money, and reduce carbon emissions. Unfortunately, whether you're commuting to work or running errands on the weekend, interacting with cars on the road is often stressful for everyone involved.
Felix Salmon at Reuters recently talked about the biking situation in New York. His description had so much in common with cycling woes here in Atlanta, that it has me wondering if this is an issue in most major cities where cars and bikes are all trying to get from point A to B.
In order for everyone to make their trips safely, I think there are a few key bits of etiquette that would make all of the difference. I'm basing this on cycling laws here in Atlanta. From what I've read, they're quite similar in other cities. If your town is different, I'd love to hear about it in the comments!
Etiquette for Drivers
There's almost a combative vibe between motorists and cyclists, and I don't think it has to be that way. Like Salmon mentions in his piece, cyclists are at least partly to blame, but if drivers were more aware of a few things, it would go a long way.
The biggest issue for me is riding on a road where there is no bike lane. There are lots of roads like that around here, and it's a little terrifying when a big car or truck blows past you at speed without leaving enough breathing room. Cyclists are definitely going to be slower than cars, but it's courteous to slow down a bit and leave them some room when you're passing. If you can change lanes, that's even better.
When there is a bike lane, drivers still need to be aware of cyclists. This is especially important when making a right hand turn. We're so used to looking for other cars when turning, but if there's a bike lane there's also a chance that you're about to turn right into a cyclist. I've heard quite a few horror stories from friends that have come close to getting hit this way.
Cyclists are supposed to ride in the road, and they're supposed to behave like cars. A little respect from motorists would help a lot in making it less scary for folks on bikes and a more harmonious relationship overall. That means not honking or yelling at a cyclist who's following the rules of the road.
Etiquette for Cyclists
If we want bikes treated like cars, though, we need to start behaving like them. That means no more blowing red lights. It means stopping at stop signs and signaling when we turn. How can cyclists expect drivers to take us seriously when we're constantly disobeying traffic laws?
Not only do those practices contribute to motorists' animosity, they can be confusing. When you see people on their bikes behaving more like pedestrians than motorists, who can blame drivers for not understanding what the dynamic is supposed to be?
I think that what we need is more education on cycling rules. So many drivers and cyclists are uninformed of the rules about bikes and cars, and that needs to change. The more folks talking about this issue, the safer the roads will be for drivers and for cyclists.
Could bike shops offer rules of the road the road to their customers?
Could bike rental services include signage that lays out key rules?
Maybe it's something that could be worked into the school curriculum as part of driver's education or health class?
More and more companies are encouraging bike commuting - it might make a big difference if they educated their employees as part of those programs.
What do you guys think? How can we raise awareness about cycling rules and etiquette?